Yup, the title says it all. For the first time in years, if you don’t count Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve I set foot into a church. For those of you who know me, I’m not a religious person. I don’t really believe in standard religions. I guess you could say I’m kind of agnostic. I believe in some kind of “higher power” or “universal energy”, I just don’t know what it is.
That being said, my neighbor had been talking about going to church twice a week. I never got the whole thing with going to church more than once a week, except during Lent and Advent. As you can tell, I was raised Catholic. I went to Catholic school and that really colored my decision to homeschool more than anything else. The severe torment and bullying I faced there turned me away from the idea of schools. My experiences with the Catholic church were also what led me away from Christianity as a whole.
I have to admit, I’ve had a personal struggle with this one. I want to believe in something. I want to be a part of a community, but around here that’s churches. Churches help their members when they’re in need. Churches provide community. Churches provide support. Unfortunately, for someone that’s not religious I’m not entirely comfortable with that.
However, Oz brought up the idea that we should join our neighbors for church. It would come with the benefit of free food as they have a community dinner and social hour before the service. It’s in walking distance, so that meant we could go on our own whenever we wanted. It might just mean community. Oz has been talking about going to church for a few months now, mostly because he’s never really had a solid spiritual foundation and he feels the need to be a part of something too.
So we packed our small hoard of minions up and marched everyone off to church. I swear, we must have looked like a small army. Seven kids and four adults were marching down the street. Luca had his first ride in a stroller while everyone walked there. Sander got to hop the ride in the double stroller with our neighbor’s daughter on the way home. It was a really nice walk, and I have to admit, it was good to be out.
We showed up and ate, then the kids all went to the nursery to play, leaving the men in charge. The neighbor and I sat for the service. There was the option of a class available for Corde and Beekee, but I was kind of glad they weren’t going to class. I hadn’t even gotten a chance to check out the church and I’d like to know what this non-denominational church was about before my children were being sucked in by it. I grant my children with the ability to make up their own minds, but I know it’s sometimes easy to fall into a rhythm with a church. It’s easy to be swept up in someone else’s enthusiasm, even if it’s not for you.
I have to admit, listening to the guy they have speak on Wednesdays was interesting. It really did provide a lot of points for me to think about. He was talking about reaching out to everyone and treating them with unconditional love and unconditional respect no matter who they are. I had a personal snicker when he said, “Reach out to that person with the piercings all over and covered in tattoos!” Yeah, that about sums me up. He said that often times the people who are the least desirable to be around are often the ones most in need. He has a point. The people in the most need are generally unclean, not well dressed (as in not having that sense of polish like someone trying to look nice, not in any way meaning fashion sense). They’re the loners that look like they’ve got the weight of the world resting on their shoulders. Those people shouldn’t be avoided but embraced and helped.
I know how that feels too. I’ve been there. I remember a time when I was terrified of showering because it meant taking off my clothes, even if I was alone in my own bathroom. I would wear the same clothes for days on end because I didn’t want to change. Changing meant taking off my clothes. When I did change my clothes it was in my bed, under my covers. I know I looked kind of ragged, even though my clothes were always really nice. I looked hollow and broken because I hadn’t been eating. I looked a wreck. I wanted someone to reach out, pick me up, and plant me back on my feet more than anything else, someone to give me guidance and direction. Instead I ended up with a room mate that used me, then hiding away with one hermit of a boyfriend only to replace him with a hermit of a husband. Two kids, a deployment as an Army wife, and a lot of soul searching later and I finally pulled myself up and started fighting to be the person I wanted to be, not the bedraggled wreck I’d let myself become. If it wasn’t for Oz (my own personal hero) I wouldn’t be half as far on that path as I am now.
At the same time, I was also noticing another trend. The community seemed a little lifeless. In my mind I kept thinking that I needed to be the one to get the audience going, to get some life in there. I was almost disturbed by my own reaction. It felt too much like I was there for a purpose, and it wasn’t to get spiritual satisfaction out of going to church. I felt like I was there to get some life into these people. I felt like I was that person planted in the audience to work the crowd and inspire them to get involved, to get passionate. It was a little disturbing because I’m not Christian, though I can’t say that I won’t some day return to Christianity, I don’t know. It just felt a little too much like a show, a performance, and that getting the crowd going would be my job. That was always my job in my old performance group. Maybe I just miss performing that much.
However, what I got out of it most of all was the realization that, for the time being at least, I’m no longer considering myself agnostic. As hippie-dippy as it sounds, my religion is love. I don’t need a church, a savior, or any of that. I’ve always had a hard time believing that children were born with some inherent sin and either dunking them in water, or as this man said, the baptism of being filled with the holy spirit somehow absolves them of that sin. My children are sweet, pure, and innocent. I don’t even need a community to support and encourage me in my belief because I know believing in love can’t be wrong, since any positive religion is founded in a basis of love. Their belief systems may differ, but it’s all love at the core.
When everything was over I found out that Corde had gone to the children’s class, but Beekee decided not to. They did a craft where they did scratch art angels and a cross with the word “LOVE” up and down and “GOD” across. I don’t really know if I’m justified in this, but I felt really uncomfortable with this. Even with my religious classes at Catholic school I was able to question a good deal. I went to Bible studies in high school where I would argue and debate points in the Bible and parts of religious doctrine not because I thought it was wrong, but through questioning I got a better understanding. Having the freedom to say, “Hey, this just sounds fishy to me” or to say I don’t know if I agree with what that passage is saying allows other people to put it in perspective for me. Maybe I agree after I get a deeper understanding or look at it in a different context. Maybe I don’t. Either way I was able to take something out of it. However, I don’t know if that’s the case in the children’s class. I don’t know if calling the whole belief system into question would be accepted. I don’t even know how much faith is pushed. I don’t know what’s going on in there, and as such, I’m not sure I want my children learning in those classes. I want them to understand the religion, but I don’t want them to be coerced or otherwise pushed into believing that because we go to church that means I believe these teachings are true and correct.
I don’t know if the church would understand. I don’t know if they’d be accepting of the fact that maybe I don’t want my children to grow up with the conviction that Jesus is their personal savior and to attribute everything good and loving to God. I credit my children with enough individuality to follow their own heart, but Corde has been shown to cave under the pressure before. I don’t want her to do it again over religion. It’s easy to get sucked in, and with how much Maddy has sucked her in before I know Corde might not stand up to it, especially since most of her friends are Christian.
This whole experience has me questioning a lot of things. Oz is right. I do need to get out. I need to find my sense of community. Where faith is concerned, we’re both looking for something. We’re looking for a place we can call our spiritual home, whether that’s a group that meets at a church or just a collection of like-minds that we can hang out with and talk. I know the kids need to understand Christianity and it’s becoming more and more clear that I can’t offer anything but a jaded perspective that half views Church as a dog and pony show. I can’t get the idea of working the crowd and turning the whole thing into an act out of my head. That’s not a good message to be putting into my kids’ heads.
I don’t know…we might go back again and test the waters. We might not go back at all. Honestly, I’m not sure I want to go back, and I definitely don’t want to without Oz. It’s just a confusing time in my life. I guess I thought I wanted something, but now I’m not sure if I do at all…